Croatia needs penalties, Brazil thumps South Korea at World Cup

In Monday’s pair of round of 16 fixtures, two teams from the 2018 quarterfinals punched a ticket to that round of 2022. However, while Japan pushed Croatia to the brink, Brazil cruised along in what has been a sumptuous World Cup for the five-time champions

For South Korea and Japan, it is a harsh exit for two of the three Asian teams to reach the knockout stages. Joined by Australia, this is the first time three teams from AFC reached the knockout stage of the same tournament. Japan will regret its inability to convert from the penalty spot. South Korea was simply overmatched by perhaps the most talented team at the World Cup

Brazil and Croatia punch ticket to World Cup quarterfinals

Starting with the first game of the day, Japan entered the game imbued with confidence. Wins over Germany and Spain had Japan as a sneaky contender to pull off a major upset or two. However, it was the usual suspects for Croatia that kept the 2018 runner-up on track in Qatar.

Celtic winger Daizen Maeda opened the scoring just before halftime after a goal-mouth scramble that Maeda tucked away. Then, 10 minutes after the break, Ivan Perišić, who scored in the 2018 Final, leveled the game. At the risk of falling behind, neither team pushed too far forward in the 90. Moreover, these teams took it through 120 minutes without a decider.

Croatian manager Zlatko Dalić pulled off Luka Modrić, Andrej Kramarić, Mateo Kovačić and the aforementioned Perišić in the 120 minutes. Therefore, it put the strain on the lesser-known Croatians to answer the call. It was goalkeeper Dominik Livaković to emerge as the hero.

Livaković, who plays for Dinamo Zagreb, stopped three out of four Japanese penalties. On the other side, Shūichi Gonda could only keep out one penalty from Croatia.

With the win, Croatia advanced to the quarterfinals. Remarkably, this is Croatia’s third win on penalties in the last two World Cups. In fact, in 2018, Croatia won on penalties twice, and needed stoppage time in the semifinal against England.

Croatia now faces Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinals.

Brazil shows nothing but talent in win

While Croatia and Japan went the distance, Brazil wrapped up South Korea in the opening 45 minutes. Before the two teams played half an hour, the five-time World Champions had a three-goal cushion. Vinícius Jr. opened a first-half goal fest with a clinical and calm finish into the far corner.

Then, it was Neymar to score the second. The PSG star missed the previous two games with an ankle injury. Yet, he looked mighty fine against South Korea. He deked South Korean goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu from the spot. Richarlison continued his fine form by adding Brazil’s third. Fittingly, it was the player’s third of the tournament. He leads the team. Finally, Lucas Paquetá got in on the action with Brazil’s fourth.

By halftime, the game was just about over. Yet, that did not stop some South Korean celebration in the game. Paik Seung Ho scored the goal of the game from 25 yards out.

Granted, the shot took a deflection off the Brazilian defense. But, it gives something South Korea to take home with pride. Brazil was always going to be a tough match for a South Korean side that squeaked out of the group stage.

Brazil vs Croatia

This quarterfinal matchup will be the fifth all-time meeting between Brazil and Croatia, and it is the third at the World Cup. The met in the group stages of the 2006 and 2014 World Cups. Brazil won on both occasions.

The most recent battle between the two was back in 2018, an international friendly just before the World Cup. Brazil won that one, as well.

Yet, despite the dominance over Croatia, Brazil has something of a bug with European opponents. Since defeating Germany in the 2002 World Cup Final, Brazil lost to the first European opponent it faced in the World Cup knockout rounds. From 2018 backwards, those were Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and France. Croatia hopes to make it five-straight losses to European opponents in the knockout stages.

The two battle on Friday, Dec. 9, with coverage on FOX and Telemundo at 10 am ET.

PHOTO: IMAGO/Xinhua

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